At a writing conference last year, I met a teenage boy who asked me what my book was about. Fair question. We were waiting for a judging panel to draw random names from a large crowd eager to “pitch” their book ideas. Only 20 people would get the chance, and there would be a single winner, who would be introduced to an agent. We stood by while seats were arranged, poring over our one-minute pitches.
“Okay, here’s what I’ve got,” I told him. After a deep breath, I plunged into the 60-second description of my novel, then looked at him expectantly. He raised his eyebrows. “So, basically,” he said, “your main character is bat-shit crazy?”
I burst out laughing. He’d certainly eased the tension. “I guess so,” I said. “Now, what about yours?”
He compared his book to Twilight; it had a love triangle, werewolves, vampires, set in high school. I told him it sounded great, wished him luck, and found a seat.
The boy never got his chance, but I did. When the judges called my name, I looked back and saw him giving me a lopsided grin and a thumbs-up. I pitched my novel—and lost. But the judges said the decision was difficult, and they wanted to acknowledge their close second choice. That was me, and I was declared runner-up, sharing the stage and receiving some nice prizes.
I was disappointed, sure, but looking back, my book wasn’t ready for an agent. I’d completed the first draft only six months before, and would spend another year and a half revising it before finding a publisher. I expect it will go through several more revisions before its release next year.
What the conference did was force me to summarize my 45,000-word novel onto one page. And although the novel itself would change many times, that first pitch didn’t change much at all.
Here’s what it looks like:
When Marin’s world is shattered in an instant, she withdraws to the world of her dreams. At night, in this fantasy of bright forests and shadowless skies, time does not move and grief cannot find her.
Then a teacher refers Marin to the school counselor, where she’s pulled from her solitude and thrust in a group of troubled peers. Her anger breaks through and begins to kindle other emotions: empathy for others, desire to form friendships, and hope for a new dream. She is slowly waking from her grief.
But something in her dreams doesn’t want her to wake up. And as those dreams turn to nightmares, Marin knows she must face the demons she’s created, and conquer what lies behind the fourth wall.
So that’s what my book’s about! Just don’t ask me what the next one’s about. That’s a story for another day . . .